A-W’s John Henrich: Two State championships in two years
(Akron, IA.) – It runs in the family. Wrestling and winning.
John Henrich, a senior at Akron-Westfield (A-W), completed a 44-0 record last season, winning the Class 1A, 160-pound State championship at Des Moines’ Wells Fargo Arena (Feb. 15-17, 2018). The total victories made it 88-0 the last two seasons and two State championships.
Impressive, isn’t it.
Here’s the rest of the story.
John’s father, Brad, was a three-time state qualifier when he was in high school at A-W. You know who he wrestled for? His Dad, Jim Henrich. That’s right. Not only did Jim coach John’s father, Brad, but Jim was the guy who started the wrestling program at Akron-Westfield back in the late 1960s. Oh yea, and John’s uncle Jarrod was a State qualifier as well.
You’re talking three generations of wrestlers. All of them standouts.
“It still comes down to putting in the hard work in the practice room. It’s getting different looks on the mat from your teammates,” John Henrich said.
You’re always learning, he said, and you’re always working on new things.
“Like at last year’s State tournament I learned two things I needed to work on. One was being able to shoot without a Russian tie-up (a wrestling move). I usually like to get a Russian and either post it up or work on a snap. I found that wouldn’t work at State. The second was wrestling along the edge of the mat.”
Indeed, at State, by working the mat’s edge, his opponent posted a take-down with two seconds remaining on the clock. The take-down was out-of-bounds. “That was big for me,” John said, “because had we not been off the circle, that would have put me down by two.”
The strategy worked… and no, it’s never easy.
What’s that saying? ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going.’
“When I was in eighth grade, I was trying to cut weight,” he said. He dropped 25 pounds, he said, “and by Christmas I’d lay on the couch and just be dead. I mean, everyday was a weight practice.” Thankfully, he said, his coach moved him up to 145, the weight he wrestled at the remainder of that season. He began to win.
“That was my learning curve,” he said. “I learned that I didn’t need to cut a lot of weight in order to be successful. At a reasonable weight I had energy, stamina, and endurance.”
Needless to say, young Henrich realizes what it takes to be a top contender. “Everyone I go up against brings their ‘A Game’. So, I know I’ve got to bring my ‘A Game’. I’ve learned to go for the win. In other words,” he explained, “instead of an opponent riding me for a minute and gaining points in the event of a tie, I shoot for an escape in the first 10 seconds and gain an escape.”
“My goal is to dominate from the very onset until the end. I want to establish no doubt in my opponent’s mind that he has a chance to hang with me,” he said.
Wrestling is a sport on to itself. It’s very rare to see a wrestler who loses a close match display anger. Wrestling is about thinking, self-control, and discipline.
“I went to Colorado with a couple of teammates late summer before my junior year to a tournament and wrestled a guy from Texas in the semis. Man, he just whipped me. He put me on my back with an inside trip. I remember going down and thinking to myself, ‘Whoa, boy.’ I ended up losing, but it was a learning lesson and knowing that there’s always someone better – always someone who can beat you.”
With this year in the making, John was recruited heavily by major universities. He has chosen the University of Nebraska, which he will attend next fall. Colleges liked what they saw and knew about the young grappler from Akron. They all know he’s tough because there have been times he’s played hurt.
“You have to know the difference between being hurt and being injured. Hurt, you can keep going; injured is when you can’t play. You may be hurting, but you have to help your teammates first. Even though wrestling is not a team sport, you still don’t want to post a zero. You always want to score points for your team.”
Winning in athletics percolates into academics, and so it’s no surprise that Henrich owns a 3.7 grade point average – another reason colleges went after him. He likes shop work and math, and melding those two disciplines together has him thinking about entering into mechanical engineering.
“It’s exciting, but I still have six months of high school now,” he said regarding the next level of academia and sports.
Let’s face it, the kid is versatile and an athlete.
To get to where John is equates to an investment in time. During the season, he said, he generally devotes a solid three hours a day to wrestling, the latter hour in weight training. “We have a rowing machine that is absolutely brutal,” he quipped. “You go 1,000 meters on that, which takes only about 3 ½ minutes, but when you finish you’re just burned out physically.”
Off-season means wrestling, working on technique, and generally going at it for about an hour a day.
Two crowns in two years. Any let-up? Hahahahahahaha. Fat chance. “I’ve got my work cut out for me this season,” John said.
With all that he’s accomplished thus far, Henrich remains grounded. His grandfather, Jim, he said, “is the one guy who keeps me level-headed. Too,” he added, “I look for guys to wrestle that can whoop up on me. There’s always someone who can beat you. So, that keeps me honest.”
John talked about his teammates, too, listing a number of them that he said have the potential to be champs in their own right. The list includes everyone on the squad, and suffice it to say John’s teammates are all hard workers and dedicated.
Talent in NW Iowa? You betcha. John Henrich is a prime example. He’s an SSA All-American.